How to Stockpile Pastures
What is stockpiling? We would define it as the practice of accumulating pasture growth in the fall to use as a forage source going into the winter. How is this done?
The goal of stockpiling is to take advantage of fall conditions to gain growth on perennial pastures that can be grazing into the winter even after a frost. To get adequate tonnage for stockpiling, the process should start in August in the Midwest. Utilizing August and September temperatures will benefit the amount of dry matter you can accumulate for the fall/winter grazing. Extending the grazing season with stockpiling allows you to cut costs by saving on the amount of stored feed that is needed throughout the winter.
Paddocks that you plan on stockpiling should be strategically chosen so that you are able to rotate through them. This will maximize the utilization of that forage that has built up. Your rotation can be planned in a similar way to spring and summer grazing. These stockpiled forages should still have a stubble height of at least 4 inches after the final pass over them. This will ensure those paddocks are not stunted too much in the spring when they begin to wake up.
One consideration when planning your stockpiling is ensuring that stockpiled forage will be grazed in a timely manner. This should be before too much snowfall. Heavy snow can inhibit air movement among the grass, creating an environment for molds to form rendering the forage unpalatable to livestock. Snow that crusts or has a layer of ice can also prevent livestock from being able to access the stockpiled forage leading to those areas being wasted.
What is your plan for stockpiling forage this fall?